Auditions for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024 have started, and a number of big names are auditioning for the part of the future Donald Trump.
However, there is one mistake. The former president may not be able to hand over the reins to a stand-in.
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Trump will deliver Sunday afternoon’s keynote speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando, Fla., this year. On Friday, the conference started in earnest.
Trump’s address will be his most high-profile public appearance since leaving office after his second impeachment following the Capitol rebellion on Jan. 6. In a straw poll conducted among CPAC attendees earlier Sunday, he is widely expected to win.
Trump has given no hint that he will run for president again. Even his opponents admit that he would be a clear favorite for the Republican nomination, even though they think he would fail in a general election.
“If he chooses to run, Trump will be the candidate,” said Rick Tyler, a conservative strategist who is openly critical of Trump.
In comments earlier this week, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who voted for Trump’s prosecution during both his impeachment trials, confirmed the same fact.
His fire is being fuelled by Trump allies. A Suffolk University-USA Today poll earlier this week showing 76 percent of Republican voters will support Trump if he mounted another presidential bid was tweeted by Jason Miller, a senior advisor to Trump’s 2020 campaign.
CPAC, a typical proving ground for Republicans trying to create buzz for a presidential bid, takes place in the midst of internal GOP squabbles about the former president’s legacy.
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), who, despite facing internal scrutiny for voting for Trump’s impeachment, recently kept on to her House leadership role, has expressed her disappointment with offering the former president the prime speech slot.
Though agreeing that the decision was “up to CPAC,” she also noted, “I was explicit about my views on President Trump and the degree to which I don’t think he should play a role in the party’s future after Jan. 6.”
Friday saw a procession of speakers who, if they enter the 2024 race, have set their sights on the former president’s mantle as a nationalist nominee.
The speakers were Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.).
No one really doubts that in the last four years, the GOP has moved decisively in Trump’s direction. However, the pro-Trump lane for 2024 is crowded, and some of the candidates running there have serious issues.
When he traveled to Cancun, Mexico, in the midst of a crisis that plagued his state, Cruz tried to make light of his self-inflicted public relations tragedy, leaving 4 million Texans without electricity. Orlando was “awesome” but “not as good as Cancun,” Cruz told delegates.
In his address, Hawley tried to depict himself as a victim of “cancel culture” as Cotton also did.
“I’ve been called a spy. I’ve been labeled a seditionist. “The radical left said I should be removed from the United States Senate if I didn’t resign,” he said. “I won’t go anywhere. “I’m going to sit right here.”
Cruz, Cotton, and Hawley are betting that staying as close to Trump as possible would boost their chances in 2024. They might be right, but if he does not run again, the calculus just works.